Stead, Rebecca. When You Reach Me. Wendy Lamb Books, New York, 2009. ISBN: 9780385906647
Miranda has read A Wrinkle In Time over and over. Soon she starts talking to Marcus, a kid who punched her friend Sal. He has read her book and disputes the idea of time travel. Mysterious notes asking her to tell exactly what happened so that when her mysterious correspondent reaches her, they can do the right thing…again. The book weaves the realistic in with the fantastical and the story of Miranda is an amazing adventure that you don’t realize you’re taking until you’re already into the book. It’s wonderful; a real masterpiece that any reader would enjoy.
Vardell states, “Fantasy is fantasy because it contains elements or events that cannot happen in the real world, as far as we know. These may be magic, but not necessarily. It may be technologically impossible, like time travel. This element of the impossible, yet probable, is a big part of the appeal of modern fantasy literature.” I have to agree with this statement. The beauty of a story like this is, as I said, it’s mixed with the real and unreal. While Miranda can be dealing with issues of racism, she’s also dealing with someone predicting her future in letters. Plus, the fact that A Wrinkle in Time is the catalyst for why these kids believe time travel is possible is another beautiful element of the story. It makes it believable to the kids in the book and, therefore, the reader buys the possibility as well. I also applaud Stead for not having to go overboard in explanation about how and why the time travel occurs. There’s enough information that the reader needs to buy the possibility because it is just one part of the whole story.
When You Reach Me has deservingly won the following awards: Newberry Medal 2010, Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Books 2009, Book Sense Book of the Year 2010, IRA Children’s Book Awards 2010, Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards 2010 as well as being nominated for several others. School Library Journal (July 1, 2009) reviewed this book by saying, “Discerning readers will realize the ties between Miranda's mystery and L'Engle's plot, but will enjoy hints of fantasy and descriptions of middle school dynamics. Stead's novel is as much about character as story. Miranda's voice rings true with its faltering attempts at maturity and observation. The story builds slowly, emerging naturally from a sturdy premise. As Miranda reminisces, the time sequencing is somewhat challenging, but in an intriguing way. The setting is consistently strong. The stores and even the streets-in Miranda's neighborhood act as physical entities and impact the plot in tangible ways. This unusual, thought-provoking mystery will appeal to several types of readers.” Again, I have to agree that this is appealing for various age groups and reading tastes. I personally thought I didn’t like fantasy novels, but this one was incredible and I couldn’t put it down.
I will go as far as to say this book could be used in a high school situation, especially for reluctant readers or lower level readers. If permission would allow to show clips, I would show them some of Lost, especially the episode where Faraday and Desmond see one another in the past and the future and the audience realizes that they had made one another their “constant” or their “go-to person.” I have heard librarians say that middle school students weren’t really into A Wrinkle in Time, so maybe for high school kids, some snippets here and there would work. I suggest maybe assigning a chapter to a few groups in class to give presentations on what the story is about. This will help get into reading When You Reach Me as a class.
I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I’m saw it on the shelf at the library a handful of times and put it down because it has the whole Million Dollar Pyramid bit at the beginning. Plus Miranda is supposed to be very young but you don’t get that idea when reading the book. Again, I give this four stars and recommend it to everyone. I even bought a copy on Amazon to keep in my book collection.